A Bradley (tm) Birth! - First Time Mamas CAN Birth Without Drugs
I love how this mom stops thinking and starts listening to her body. Birth is an ancient art at it's core. Classes can help us navigate the hospital system and unlearn some of our learned fears- but women know inside them how to give birth.
Kaelyn's Birth Journey
This story begins on a cloudy Tuesday. Tuesday, Oct. 4th to be exact. This was my due date... a day marked on the calendar as the day around which my precious baby girl was to be born, and a day which I had dreamt about for 10 months. While I know that babies typically come between 37-42 weeks and I told myself that I was probably going to "go late" like first-time moms often do... there was still just something about that day I couldn't get past. I spent the whole day feeling like it was my wedding day and my husband forgot to show up or something! I wanted to meet her oooohhh so badly, and did not want to be pregnant for one more second! I woke up on this day with tears in my eyes staring at the empty bassinet next to me wishing I was looking at my baby girl. I looked down at my stomach and thought... "Baby K... I know you are a full grown baby in there... why are you still in my belly???!!! Why can't I just transfer you from this belly out onto my bed right now so I can look at you!??!"
I stopped returning calls and text messages asking me how I was feeling and if she was here yet because it was hard for me to even say out loud that she wasn't here yet. That is all that I wanted! I went on a long walk with my grandma Helen (who from this point on will be called Grammy because it's weird for me to call her anything else) who had come to stay at our house a few days prior and is helping and taking care of us during this transitional time.
ANYWAY... I was having contractions throughout the walk with Grammy but had no idea they were contractions. I had read that contractions started as a lower back pain and gradually wrapped around to the front, but what I was feeling felt very much like menstrual cramps that started in my lower abdomen and crept upward. I wrote them off as Braxton Hicks or some kind of other weird pregnancy symptom. I spent the rest of the day exhausted, crampy, and feeling rather sorry for myself.
Around 9:30 that night, the "abdominal cramps" had intensified a bit, and I wondered in the back of my mind if there was any possible way I could actually be in labor. Scott and I starting timing these weird cramps, but they didn't appear to be very regular like real contractions would be. **Side note... I had thought that contractions had to be the EXACT same distance apart lasting for the EXACT same amount of time... and didn't realize that by me continuing to walk around and do things I was making them worse so they couldn't be regular.
Scott and I determined they were probably nothing, so we would just go to sleep. Welllllllll, I couldn't fall asleep. The "false labor" contractions were too intense. I wondered again if there was any remote possibility that this was really the beginning of Kaelyn's birth story. I didn't want to get my hopes up though, so I decided I would get up and return some e-mails and go on facebook. I was so in denial, it wasn't even funny! I didn't want to wake up Scott or Grammy if I wasn't really in labor, so I started timing the contractions again while reading about "What signs to look for to know if you're really in labor or just feeling Braxton Hicks." I had learned in our Bradley class that if it was truly the start of labor, the contractions wouldn't stop no matter what. I got up, walked around, went to the bathroom, sat for awhile... and they kept coming. After a couple hours of this, I found the contractions to be about 3-4 minutes apart lasting about a minute each and was pretty sure this was the real deal. I was pretty tired at this point and decided I would try to go back to sleep. If it was going to be a long labor, I wanted to be well rested! It was a little before 2:00am at this point. I don't know why I thought I'd be able to sleep when I couldn't sleep before, but my brain wasn't really being logical at this point! As soon as I laid down, I heard a little popping noise, and some water started to gush...
"WOH, I THINK MY WATER JUST BROKE!" I excitedly proclaimed as I rushed to the bathroom.
Scott bolted straight up in bed with the most wide-eyed bewildered sleepy face... "Have you been having contractions?? How long has this been happening??" He asked as he sleepily stumbled to the bathroom. I explained what had happened over the past couple hours.
"So... I guess I really am in labor then?" I asked fairly confident now.
"Babe, you are definitely in labor," he laughed. He took it all in with a nervous-determined-adrenalin-pumped-take-charge kind of face and said in a matter of fact tone, "Guess we better finish packing the bag then," as he rushed out of the bathroom in a hurry. (Our bag had been packed for awhile... but we still had to throw in some last minute items like toothbrushes and toiletries. :-))
I laid down on the bed and went through some contractions on my own while he finished packing. We decided it was definitely time to wake up Grammy and call Mary the midwife to let her know things were beginning! Scott told her that I was comfortable and okay to labor at home for awhile. Mary recommended I try to eat an egg and to let her know as things progressed. I wasn't hungry at all... but knew I needed to eat and drink throughout the labor process to keep my strength and stamina up. Grammy went downstairs to scramble an egg and make some toast for me and had just brought it up when Mary called back. She asked if I would be okay to go ahead and come in because she wanted to check on the baby since my water had already broken. I was, of course, completely fine with this, wanting to make sure we took every precaution for the safety of baby K! I tried to down the food as best I could, and we piled into the car.
The car ride over was not super pleasant as every bump and turn did not agree with my contractions! We arrived at Blossom Birth and Wellness Center around 4:00am on Wednesday the 5th.
As soon as I arrived, Mary did a quick check on me. We were all pleasantly surprised to find I was already 5cm dilated with a very soft cervix! Sorry if that is TMI... but you are reading a birth story!!
I spent the next couple of hours in a relaxed position on the bed (shown in picture below) while Grammy gave me a massage with Scott at my side. I had made a birth playlist, and we listened to relaxing piano music. In between contractions, I looked up at my handsome husband and we whispered about how our baby girl would be there so soon!!! I couldn't stop saying it out loud.... "She's coming babe... she's really coming!!" With each contraction, I was focused and relaxed, and pictured her little head wriggling her way out to meet us. There was such purpose in that pain! At one point I became nauseated and had to throw up in a puke bucket, but for some reason it didn't bother me the way throwing up normally does. I was focused, determined, and ready to meet my daughter!
After lying on the bed for awhile, I decided I wanted to move to the tub (pic below). It is a huge whirlpool tub that is all kinds of amazing! *** Of course walking from the bed to the tub intensified the contractions, so Scott and I went through a few contractions together on the way to the tub as it filled up.
Let me say a few words about contractions in a hot jacuzzi tub.... the words I would use to describe the tub: relief, focused, warm, and comfortable. I am the person that takes hot baths when I am stressed... and there is just something about laying in tub that makes me feel relaxed and at peace. Scott, Grammy, and I talked and laughed in between contractions, and when the contractions came, I closed my eyes and focused. While the peak of each contraction continued to get more intense, I loved the fact that every time I hit a peak, I knew the pain would then lessen, and I would get a break at the end. I felt more focused and relaxed than I ever have in my life!
That being said, time felt like it was moving very slowly. When I first got in the tub, all I wanted was for the labor to hurry and speed up! I could control how I reacted to the contractions, but I couldn't control the pace of the labor... so that drove me a bit batty! I asked for all the clocks to be hidden and to not know how much time had passed. I wanted to be focused on what I was doing without the distraction of knowing how long it was taking so I wouldn't get discouraged. Occasionally, a contraction would catch me off guard and start more intensely than the others. There was one in particular that made me tear up as it scared me that it had come on so quickly and I felt like I had lost it. For the most part though, I felt like most of the other contractions were very manageable.
Every time a contraction would come, I felt myself going into some kind of zone that I can't even describe. I am going to try really hard to not sound corny, so bear with me... but I really felt like I went into some kind of alternate universe in my head. I went to a place where no one could go, where I felt empowered and incredibly strong. I did my best to think as positively as I could. I told myself that this was going to be a quick, easy labor, that I was doing an excellent job, and that I was strong, capable, and handling everything extremely well. I looked around me, and talked to Grammy and Scott about how happy I was to be at Blossom. I felt calm, comfortable, peaceful, and in control. It gave me strength knowing that I was bringing her into this world without any drugs affecting her little body, and that I was doing the best I could for the two of us.
Throughout the labor, I forced myself to eat some strawberries and string cheese, and Scott and Grammy continued to keep me hydrated with coconut water. Over the next few hours, the contractions became stronger, longer, and closer together. I forced myself to change positions from time to time to keep things progressing even though it really hurt to do so! I practiced deep breathing and focused on relaxing every muscle in my body throughout the contractions. Grammy and Scott soaked washcloths in ice and held them to my forehead which felt soooooooo good!
After numerous hours (who knows how many... the clocks were hidden!), I decided I was pruney enough and I would go back and labor on the bed for a bit. This was the most difficult part of the entire birth process. Right after laying down, I hit the transitional stage (the stage right before pushing where the contractions are the strongest, longest and you often have contractions back to back without a break in between). Thankfully, this was also the shortest stage for me. This stage is really hard for me to remember because I was seriously off in some kind of distant labor land and had no idea what was going on around me! I listened to the music and forced myself to relax. While it was difficult, I felt like I did pretty good, with the exception of one particularly LONG, RIDICULOUSLY INTENSE contraction that I distinctly remember curtly stating that if I had one more contraction like that I would die! It was also at this point that I snapped at my dear sweet husband who was trying to stroke my arm and tell me what a good job I was doing. I really needed to focus at that point... so I asked him not to touch me, talk, or move! He ended up taking a little nap next to me on the bed. :-)
As I approached the pushing stage, the contractions slowed down quite a bit, and I was able to take short naps in between contractions. I felt sooooooooo relaxed, and it felt amazing to just sleep in between. After snoozing for awhile, I decided to get back in the tub. On the way to the tub, I had to go to the bathroom, so I ended up laboring on the toilet for awhile as moving around was quite the chore. Mary brought me a protein shake to give me some extra strength before the pushing stage. I may have drank a little too fast and threw some of it up... but I still got some nutrients and strength out of it! :-) It was on the toilet, ironically, that I first felt "the urge to push..." although it really felt more like a strong urge to go #2!
After that, back into the tub I went! We decided to do another check, and I was 9 cm dilated at this point with an anterior lip... almost all the way effaced, just a lip of the cervix around the rim that was still over Kaelyn's head. I was struggling at this point with not feeling like I wanted to push, but also feeling like maybe I should try. It didn't "feel good to push" like I had heard a lot of women say... so I didn't want to force the pain. Plus, I had been through a lot of pain at this point already so didn't really want to force pain when it didn't have to be there!
I was battling a lot of questions in my mind. Was I supposed to start pushing yet? How long should I wait? What was it going to feel like? Was I taking too long? How much was it going to hurt? Was everyone getting tired of waiting around for me? Was I able to push this baby out? What would happen if I just decided not to push?? Would they make me go to the hospital? Was this normal? What was I supposed to do? Mary and Grammy decided to give Scott and I some time on our own, so they went into the other room while I went through a couple more contractions. As much as I wanted to meet Kaelyn, I was tired, and didn't know how to get over this hurdle. I asked Scott to step out for awhile and I just tried to relax in the tub by myself as much as I could. Mary came in soon after that and said...
"Brianne... you're over-thinking this. You just really need to listen to your body and let your wild beast out!"
Oh, man... this is something I have heard my whole life! My second grade teacher often told my mom that I over analyzed the tests. When Mary said this, it all made sense. Of course I would try to OVER-THINK the birth of my firstborn. I over-think everything else in life, so why not Kaelyn's birth!? This was so key... as soon as she said this, I knew I just needed to STOP thinking and just LISTEN to what my body was telling me. I was also afraid to just let my body be in control. I always feel like I am so "in control," and to just let my body take over felt very odd! I was afraid of what might happen or what might come out of my mouth if I let go of the control!
I closed my eyes and started to slowly push with the contractions. I focused on what my body was telling me, and even though it was uncomfortable, after doing this for a few minutes, I felt my body start to take over! I was doing it! It was happening! I could feel her head descending from inside of me... what a crazy awesome feeling. I started to feel the "ring of fire" a bit... a slight burning sensation down there as she started to crown. The crazy thing? I didn't care! I knew this was the final stretch, and I was about to meet her any second. Mary told me she could see her head, and said I could reach down to touch it. I reached down to feel her little head coming out. That was all I needed to give me that extra motivation to finish strong! Mary estimated it would be about 20 more pushes. It was so great to have an obtainable goal! That didn't sound like that much at all! I pushed as hard as I could for as long as I could... and after about 7-10 pushes, at 4:54pm on Wednesday October 5th, 2011, I heard everyone crying out in celebration!!
What?? That was it?? She was out?? I was done?? It was over?? I did it!!!! Nothing mattered... my baby girl was in my arms!!
What followed after that were the most precious, amazing moments of my life on Earth so far. Kaelyn went straight on my chest and it was love at first sight. She looked right up at me with big eyes as if saying "Thank you for bringing me into this world, Mommy! I love you!" I looked up at my husband's handsome face and stared into his big tear-rimmed blue eyes. I had never been more in love with him than I was in that moment. "She's here!!!! She's here!! Can you believe she's finally here??"
We kissed, and I felt like I was in a surreal dream... I was floating... I was ecstatic... I was glowing... my heart was beating out of my chest... I was too emotional to sob, and all I could do was just say... "Oh... she's here... she's finally here....." The natural birth hormones and flood of endorphins were incredible!!
I held her sweet warm body and snuggled it up against mine as Scott and Mary transferred me to the bed. I kissed her, I held her close, I gazed into her eyes, and I knew life would never be the same. Scott climbed into bed next to me and we laid there together in awe of what had just happened. Did I really just push her out of my (gulp!). WOW. Yes, that really just happened. Every moment I just experienced... SO WORTH IT. What a gorgeous little creature. What a blessing from God. I was so overwhelmed with emotion. Did Scott and I really create this little being with our DNA mixed together? She was perfect!!!! Every little feature was perfect.
The placenta came out quickly after that and didn't hurt at all as I was just staring down at my precious baby girl!! As a precaution and to help dry out some fluid that was still in her lungs, we gave her some extra oxygen (shown above). I also found out later that she had the cord wrapped around her neck when she first came out, which is why she was a little blueish at first. Mary just quickly slipped it over her head as soon as she came out so I didn't even know this happened until much later! We just gave her a good rubbin' all over and she turned a nice shade of pink quite soon! Apparently this is quite common during delivery and was not a big deal, as she showed no signs of distress and her heart rate stayed normal throughout delivery.
Right after the placenta was delivered, I was able to immediately breastfeed. Mary and the labor assistant, Danielle, helped Kaelyn to get a good latch, and we were set! I'm pretty sure Kaelyn has wanted to be permanently attached to me since then... She is quite the strong little sucker and a breastfeeding champ! She pretty much has to have something in her mouth at all times!
After some bonding and breastfeeding time in bed with our sweet new little family, Scott took her into the other room for some daddy/baby time while I got a few outside stitches. Then, we weighed and measured her (7 lbs, 5.5 oz, 19.5 inches long). Mary asked us how long we would like to stay, and I said that I was ready to go! I felt amazing, and I had my baby girl in my arms. I was ready to go home and shower/sleep in my own bed. The pics below were taken on the way out the door... not the best pictures I've ever taken in my life with no make-up after being awake for over 24 hours with no shower and a 20 hour labor... but here they are nonetheless!
The first pic is my midwife Mary and labor assistant Danielle, and the second is the birth team that never left my side... the ever-fabulous and wonderful Grammy Forbes and my adorable, supportive hubby! Mary spent a lot of the labor in the next room just hanging out as she said I had such a fabulous birth team, she didn't have to do much! **Side note: HERE is Mary the Midwife's website if you want to learn more about her... she is AMAZING!!!!!! Also, I didn't talk much about it above, but if you are interested in how the heck it was possible for me to give birth in water, click HERE.
We got Kaelyn into her little ducky PJ's, and we went home just hours after her beautiful grand entrance into this world!
We got Kaelyn into her little ducky PJ's, and we went home just hours after her beautiful grand entrance into this world!
What a beautiful, memorable, amazing day! I could not have imagined a more wonderful birth experience and I will treasure these memories for the rest of my life!!